Mid-Week M.E.L.A: Personal Shopper

Mid-Week M.E.L.A: Personal Shopper

Mid-Week M.E.L.A: Personal Shopper has been edited by Pratichi Sadavrati.

Personal Shopper is a drama-thriller, directed by the French writer-director Olivier Assaya.  I think it’s a movie that changes the movie-watching experience in the most subtle, and sneaky ways. The protagonist is a young, indecisive and flawed Maureen, played by Kristen Stewart. Maureen is an American personal shopper living in Paris. Apart from swaying in the world of high street fashion, she also happens to be a medium, someone who has the ability to communicate with spirits.

There are so many layers to both the movie and Maureen, but the charm is in the suspense it so carefully holds. Personal Shopper despite its jagged narration is particularly captivating. When I speak about jagged, I don’t mean something like Memento or American Psycho. It has a distinctive beauty of its own.

If you Google this movie, you will find it’s given the “ghost movie” label quite a few times, and rightly so. It does, however, rather subvert the entire idea of a “ghost movie”. The paranormal essence, though made quite faint, is nothing short of memorable.

I am quite a fan of this genre and have seen movies like Babadook and Oculus, where the loss of someone beloved played a huge role in the entire plot. However, despite hitting really close to those themes, Personal Shopper seemed to reach out to me; to my very core. There are no mindless and explicitly scary scenes; the haunting is one of the mind. Assaya has carefully set in every essence of human relations, both internal and external. Nothing is “in your face” during the movie’s entire runtime of 1 hour 45 minutes. Also, one thing that I really like is that amidst all that is going on, there are a few scenes where Kristen Stewart is simply admiring and picking out clothes for her employer. Just her work and admiration, nothing else hinders that emotion.

Mid-Week M.E.L.A - Personal Shopper | Lutalica
A scene from the movie where Kristen Stewart is simply admiring and picking out clothes for her employer.

Another aspect that I really like comes from a scene where text messages are being exchanged between Maureen and an unknown person, and the sheer lucidity of that scene captivated me. In all honesty, such moments, they are so close to reality. It is astonishing that you are just as tensed and anxious as Maureen is when she’s waiting for the reply. The power of this movie reflects in similar scenes, as one is involved as much as possible from a viewer’s standpoint. It’s nothing like I have seen or experienced before.

The story in itself is so chaotic, but it has a surprisingly calming effect. And though it was only momentary, I did lose myself in it. This movie does that to me, several times. It gets me to introspect without having me lose focus from the movie itself. Just imagine, watching a movie, being fully engrossed in it, and still letting your mind keep running. It plays out sequences from your own life just to put them in alignment with Maureen’s. And I strongly believe that Personal Shopper has something for everyone. It plays with the mind, much to my pleasure and displeasure.

Furthermore, what I really love about this movie is how there is no moment that is unnecessary. The title gives away just enough to intrigue one but still is so direct and simplistic. I am someone who is usually drawn towards heavily thriller movies, but Personal Shopper took me by surprise.

What drew me towards it was that no one was talking about it and that it has Kristen Stewart. And going against the popular hate that she’s subject to, I actually enjoy watching her movies.

According to me, this movie serves both those who are highly emotional and those who are pragmatic. If you want to feel a lot in one movie, this is the movie you go to. It presents you with the purest, unsullied human emotions so that you really connect with Maureen. I, personally, was in a state of trance. The grief over the death of a twin brother, the helplessness to keep promises, the expectations from people and the confinements of a job one hates, this movie comes out of pieces of all of our lives. However, my favourite part, the emphasis on desires and the fear it brings with it.

I vividly remember that moment when Maureen gives in, to all those desires she had been holding within. There is this scene, when she just exists, not as a personal shopper, not as a grieving sister, not as anyone but a woman, simply giving in. Oh, the beauty of that scene. It is so vulnerable, yet so powerful.

I could blink an eye and imagine anyone in that position, unguarded. You know that entire spirit animal thing? Maureen is a compilation of all the spirit animals that ever existed. Why? Here I am, a young Indian woman, sitting in my room in Ahmedabad, yet I related to a partly brave, partly scared American woman living in the city of love and fashion.

Oh and how this movie has detached itself of pretence.

On some level though, Personal Shopper brought me a different sense of discomfort. It made me question aspects of my life, despite the lack of any clear connection with Maureen’s. It raises questions about commitments, loneliness, fear, and what really scares us.

But what is so distinctive about the movie is its capability to make me question my belief system. By the end of the movie, I was conflicted about what reality really is. And all of this, all the fragments, they are interconnected yet disassociated.

If I am in the mood to experience the aesthetic struggles of a human being, I will revisit Personal Shopper in a heartbeat. I suggest, give it a try. It will surprise (and frustrate) you a little, but you’ll certainly like why.

P.S. Did I mention Kristen Stewart is phenomenal in this movie? Go watch it!

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Abha Mehra

Abha tries to survive days with fried food with cheese. You'll find her bossing around or in a corner trying to make sense of all the words that come not so naturally to her. Be it taking naps in the afternoon or a free pizza, she is ready for both all the time. If you like what she writes, feel free to gift her jhhumkas over peach iced tea.